In January, Governor Jerry Brown stirred things up and had many juvenile justice advocates applauding when he announced he would be phasing out the state’s youth prisons. But in recent weeks, he has changed his tune and backtracked completely. Not everyone is mad at the change, however, as the newly proposed plan still makes significant improvements.
According to the Silicon Valley Mercury News, the original plan would have sent the most dangerous youthful offenders out of the state-run system and into the counties. But many counties across the state weren’t equipped to handle the new inmates, particularly after the state adult prisons began shipping inmates their way over the past year.
The original plan was an effort to save money, but also to get kids out of the aging system that many would argue was counterproductive. The cost to incarcerate one juvenile offender in the state system is about $200,000 per year.
Brown’s latest plan, however, will keep the state in control of the “most serious and violent offenders” while sending the juvenile parolees to the counties in 2013. Currently, the state-run juvenile prisons are saved for the “worst” offenders, aged 25 and under. That cut-off age will be lowered to 23 under the new plan.
These adjustments will still save the state $24.8 million this fiscal year.
Sara Norman of the Prison Law Office, an organization that is vocally critical of the state’s juvenile justice system, sees the latest change as still a positive one. “Some say shut DJJ down, but it’s just not clear to me where these youth would go. It would be far better if there were small regionally run centers where kids could be close to their homes and families, but that doesn’t seem to be in the stars.”
Over the last several years, the state of California has dramatically cut the number of incarcerated youth. In 1996 there were more than 10,000 in custody. Today there are only 992. The number of state-run juvenile facilities has also dropped from 11 to 3.
Overall, the juvenile justice system in the state has seen significant improvements, moving away from mass incarceration and cutting down on the use of solitary confinement and use-of-force incidents.
Though incarceration is rare in juvenile cases, it does happen and is a good possibility if you are accused of a violent crime.
When you or your child is accused of a crime in the California juvenile system, they face serious penalties. Contact our offices today to be put in touch with a juvenile defense lawyer that may be able to help.